Sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a bunker. Everyone does. Knowing how to escape a bunker in one is critical to breaking 80 consistently. It’s also a great way to chop strokes off your golf handicap. With bunker shots, we encourage players who take our golf lessons to first learn how to hit a greenside bunker shot, and then focus on distance control.
But many of the golfers in our golf instruction sessions automatically adopt open stances when hitting a bunker shot without really thinking about it. Once set up, they open the clubface and try to hit a cut shot, just like they’ve read about in golf tips magazines or newsletters. But trying to hit a cut shot with an open stance often spells disaster. If this is you, consider trying a square stance with greenside bunker shots.
Using Open Stance
If you hook the ball or are a fast swinger, you’ll probably benefit from using an open stance. This stance has your feet pointed left of target and your clubface open relative to your stance. Fast swingers are usually “power swingers,” so they don’t need to worry as much about swing speed with bunker shots as slow swingers do. An open stance also provides fast swingers with more distance control and a higher, softer shot.
You should also use an open stance with a square clubface relative to your stance if you tend to hook the ball. A hooker usually reaches impact with the clubface closed, causing the ball to hook. Setting the clubface open at address in a bunker means your clubface will be relatively square at impact, which is what a hooker wants.
Be careful when taking an open stance. Many students taking golf lessons open their stances by simply pulling their front foot back. This doesn’t help. Setting up like this moves the ball to the back of your stance, which is not where you want it to be. Instead, set your front foot first pointing left of target, then move your back foot in place. This approach “moves” the ball toward the middle of your stance, which is where it should be.
Also be careful when opening the clubface. Don’t grip the club and turn the clubface open. Gripping and opening encourages you to return the clubface to square at impact during the swing, making it difficult to hit a cut shot. But opening the clubface first and then gripping it ensures an open clubface through impact.
Using Square Stance
If you slice the ball or are a slow swinger, you’ll benefit from using a square stance when hitting from greenside bunker. Players with slow swings need all the power they can get with bunker shots. That’s because the sand slows their swings down even more as the clubface slides under the ball and through the sand. Instead, use a square stance with your clubface square aimed directly at the target. Opening the clubface with a square stance usually produces higher, shorter shots.
If you slice the ball, you may also want to try using a square stance when hitting from greenside bunkers. Slicers usually have an open the clubface at impact. If slicer then sets up with your feet pointed left of target (right of target for left-handers) and the clubface open, he or she will make a tough shot tougher. Your clubface will be open too much when it enters the sand, causing you to mis-hit the shot.
Mastering bunker play is a key to breaking 80 with consistency. It’s also a key to chopping a golf handicap down to size. Many golfers use an open stance for this shot. But not everybody has success this way. We encourage students in our golf instruction session to adopt a set up that works for them, whether it’s open or square. You should, too.